Entice your taste buds.
For many visitors, Bali, Indonesia is a tropical vacation paradise. Bali is one of the 17,000+ islands that constitute the Indonesian archipelago.
The Island of Gods, as it’s called by Balinese, is a refreshing mix of black, brown and white sand beaches, lush mountainsides, volcanoes, two main cities (Denpasar and Ubud), and many village communities.
It also has a predominantly Hindu population in a majority Islamic nation. Bali is an island that has a mixture of delicious local foods. Many Balinese prefer their meals on the spicy side with chopped chili included or sambal.
As an expat in Southeast Asia, I enjoyed traveling to explore the region. Bali has been my “go-to” spot while I lived in Singapore with at least eight (8) visits and still going. Now, this island ranks as one of my second homes and I love the foods here. The terrain, fruits, some flavors, and beaches remind me of my time in the Caribbean. This being said, several uniquely Balinese foods will entice your palate on each visit. So, I will introduce a handful of the most typical and traditional foods and dishes on the island: fried rice, satay, a local fruit, salad, a vegetable, soup, and fruit cocktail.
If you are looking for a tasty dish with a variety of flavors, you must try the fried rice. There is traditional Indonesian fried rice called Nasi Goreng. Bali has its own version of this traditional dish. The dish is made with shredded chicken, rice, various Balinese aromatics, and spices. And it is served with satay sticks, fried egg, a piece of fried chicken, and sambal. The traditional version contains oyster sauce (saus tiram) and shrimp paste (terasi), two things which I am allergic to. So many restaurants can make an adaptation. (As noted in the picture).
Awaken your taste buds to the tantalizing flavors of Sate Lilit! This satay variant in Southeast Asia originates from Balinese cuisine. It is made from chicken, pork, fish, or beef. The minced meat is then combined with grated coconut, coconut milk, shallots, lime juice, and pepper. This mouthwatering dish is usually served with rice and long (green) bean salad. (Pictured: Sate Lilit being grilled.)
Salak is also known as snake fruit; it got its name because its skin resembles that of a snake. It comes in three varieties in Bali:
Salak Gula Pasir, also known as sugar salak, is very sweet. Its flesh is an ivory color with a soft texture.
Salak Bali is slightly tart, pale yellow and crunchy.
Salak Pondoh is also pale yellow, firm in texture and slightly sweet.
The taste of salak, regardless of the type, is often described as that of pineapple and lime with low acidity.
Let your taste buds absorb this sweet and spicy salad known as Urab Sayur. This common vegetable side served with many main dishes, can be eaten hot or cold. It is made with a mixture of vegetables with long green beans as the primary ingredient. Other accompanying items include bean sprouts, water spinach, and cabbage. The shredded coconut is often seasoned with chili peppers, garlic, shallot, kaffir lime leaves, and coconut sugar (Pictured in green in the center of the satay meal).
Another enjoyable food you’re sure to find on the island is Yuca Fries (Cassava). Yuca is a starchy root vegetable with a similar texture to white sweet potato and tastes like a regular white potato. The yuca root is peeled, boiled, and deep-fried until it is golden and crispy. Served here with sambal and aioli. Yuca fries make a great snack.)
Soto Ayam – This everyday soup meal is primarily made of shredded chicken, glass noodles, and a boiled egg. It includes some Balinese aromatics such as ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, candlenut, chili, and lime leaves. You can enjoy this spicy and flavorful soup with rice, sambal, or bitternut crackers.
Fruit cocktail anyone?
Bali offers a refreshing variation called Es Campur. This Indonesian fruit cocktail is popular with adults and children alike. It is made with shaved coconut, various fruits (like jackfruit, avocado, dragon fruit, papaya), grass jelly (also known as black gelatin and has a mild, slightly bitter taste), pink or red sugar syrup, condensed milk and shaved ice. Let’s say it is a sugary experience.
Oxtail (buntut), local duck (bebek), and Mie Goreng (a fried egg noodle dish with meat and vegetables) are also standard foods in Balinese cuisine. Additionally, coconut, in its various forms (water, milk, oil, wet or dry shredded), is an intricate part of local cooking.
When you visit Bali, make sure you don’t leave without trying these traditional dishes. Many dishes are made spicy, but you can ask the chef/kitchen to make them with less chili and sambal on the side.
I hope I have sparked your imagination and taste buds. So, stop by a local Indonesian restaurant or, visit a warung (small, family-owned, local restaurant) on your trip to Bali for your taste of Balinese cuisine.
*All photos without noted credit are from the author, Karla A. Fraser.
**I authored a version of this story that was published in the October 2019 issue of the Expat Divas Magazine.
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—Karla A. Fraser, Local Food Delight of Bali, Roseapple Global, LLC